receiver upgrade naive questions

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by William_Gravem, Feb 16, 2005.

  1. William_Gravem

    William_Gravem Stunt Coordinator

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    Hey,

    After months of research, waiting for my condo to be built, and plenty of reading and posting here at htf, I finally got setup about 2 months ago. A nice 55 inch LCD Projection Sony hdtv, axiom M22ti, VP100, and QS8's, an SVS 12+ and an Onkyo 601 receiver that I got on clearance. I'm very happy but can't seem to stop looking at HT equipment (audio in particular), I know that I've been bitten by the bug, and I've already decided that the first upgrade is going to be the receiver, so why not begin looking into this now.

    I'm thinking something in the $1000-$1500 range, 7.1 so I have room to grow if I move someday, but I don't really know what's out there in the world of receivers. HK, Denon, Integra/Onkyo, Yahmaha, Marantz... I've heard all of these mentioned, but don't know what would sound best with my speakers, or even in general what sort of things I'm looking for. When speaker shopping, I liked the axioms I heard at people's houses, and I liked Paradigms I heard in showrooms. Does that mean I like a certain sound? Are there receivers that match well w/ this?

    I learned a lot about what to look for buying speakers: harsh, bright, big vs small sound-stage, the golden rule being "trust your ears." But something about buying speakers seems more tangible than buying receivers. What exactly am I looking for in receivers?

    I know I'd like pre-outs so one day if I want to upgrade to a set of high end speakers that require separates, I can. I also know that my Onkyo 601 was on clearance b/c it's outdated.

    Sorry if these naive questions are an irritant, but what are general trends of the major brands? How many watts do I really need? What capabilities should a great receiver have? Is THX cert important or just a sticker that jacks up the price? Do some receivers pair better w/ certain types of speakers? Is my pricerange reasonable?

    Any advice you can give me is appreciated.

    ---Bill

    ps 70% movies 30% music
     
  2. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    Hi Bill. All good questions I'm sure. If only I could read them.

    Hint. Old people like me may drive too slow, but have a lot of HT experience. However, we have trouble reading 6 pt type.

    Make it bigger, eh?
     
  3. John S

    John S Producer

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    AVR:
    On the cheap and the reviews are extremely positive a Pioneer 1014 / 1015 when they come out.

    Denon will soon have out their newest 4800 series AVR, that should be real nice, but probably a little over the $1500 mark.

    The Denon 3805 is out now, Marantz, Onkyo, H/K all have real nice products in that price range.

    Most all AVR's in your price range will offer Pre Out's, and Power Amp-in's, ect..ect...

    THX and different levels of the THX Cert, really is just a badge. It does ensure at least a certain performance mark, but many of the best ad better stuff out there does not carry the Cert.
     
  4. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    I've got the Denon 3805 with Klipsch speakers (and SVS sub) and, from what I understand, Klipsch and Axiom are on the same plane as far as "brightness" (whatever that means) goes. Great combo for my taste. I've read that the Axiom folks test their products with Denon receivers FWIW.

    The receiver has an abundance of inputs and plenty of power. What is lacks, that looks like it may be future use, is DVI or HDMI I/O's.....but I don't know of a receiver that does have those in your price range. Best part about the Denon receiver(s) is the manual.....you never have to read it because it's almost undecipherable [​IMG]

    Mort
     
  5. William_Gravem

    William_Gravem Stunt Coordinator

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    Elinor, thanks for the advice. I think I configured something incorrectly when I initially joined HTF, and all my posts come out small. I'll start correcting them as I post.

    John S and Mort, so it seems like Denon is probably a good direction, but Onkyo, Pioneer, H/K, Marantz all seem to have good products too. Is there any substantial difference between them in a given price-range? What sort of things should I be looking for? What price-range do I enter if I want my receiver to have an HDMI? If I upgrade my receiver from my Onkyo 601 to a Denon 3805 or their new 4800 series when it comes out, will there be a noticeable difference?

    Again, sorry for the naive questions. Around here I'm still a newbie.
     
  6. Mort Corey

    Mort Corey Supporting Actor

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    AFAIK, the receivers offering multiple DVI/HDMI inputs are priced above $4K....at least the Denon 5805. There may be other, newer, units that have come to market at your price point. My only gripe with Onkyo and HK products is their less than stellar quality control reputations. Marantz and Denon are both made by the same company. My first pro logic receiver was a Denon, so after 10 years of problem free enjoyment, I went that direction again. Three component inputs and the video conversion function made it a no brainer for me.

    Mort
     
  7. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    William, you'll find folks coming from all different places in terms of advice offered.

    My position is: I want the best sound I can get. Gadgets, gimmicks, bells, and whistles are for the gullible. Video switching is for video switches.

    The best receivers, in terms of sound quality, that I have heard are those by mid-hi fi component manufacturers, like NAD and Rotel. I would always recommend looking at their units. If the "new" cost is too high, there are frequently units on the "used" market that are available.

    To me they offer the best sound you can get without making the jump to separates.
     
  8. Daman

    Daman Second Unit

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    William,
    I am in the same boat as you and had shortlisted Denon 3805, Harman Kardon 635 and Marantz 7500. I have Energy speakers to be driven. I shortlisted down to the Marantz and the Harman Kardon. Had the HK last week and it really shone with my speakers, sort of felt i had a whole new set of speakers. Now have the Marantz on order and should get it by mid next week, would let you know what i felt but i sure think you should give these 2 guys a try along with the Denon before you finalize.[​IMG]
     
  9. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    See if any of the shops will let you bring in the M22s to listen with their reicever. The ones willing to do that should be worthy of your business for an expenditure of this level.
     
  10. James Phung

    James Phung Second Unit

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    The Marantz 8500 has dvi switching and 4 component inputs and retails for $1599.
     
  11. William_Gravem

    William_Gravem Stunt Coordinator

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    Mort, what's the relationship between Marantz and Denon? is one the high end version like Integra is with Onkyo?

    Elinor, good advice concerning bells and whistles vs just going for what sounds the best. Would I be better off saving and eventually getting separates, or is that overkill with the speakers I have now? Since I'm fairly pleased with what I have right now (I've only had my current setup for about 2 months) I was thinking about holding off on this until I could save for something bigger and better. I read some reviews of B&K receivers... maybe waiting is the thing to do.

    Daman, thanks. See, this is the sort of encouragement I was looking for. I really backed into my receiver, so I don't have any idea how much of a difference an upgrade could make.

    John, I hadn't considered trying to bring the speakers into one of the stores. There are about 5 or 6 stores around me, and 1 or 2 of them may actually let me do that (insert complaint about snotty clerks here.) Good advice. Actually, I wound up with the M22's based on similar advice from you that lead me to going to someone's apt to demo Axioms, and never got a chance to thank you for that as well.... thank you.
     
  12. Daman

    Daman Second Unit

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    Glad to come of help Will, for the record i have currently a Yamaha HTR 5790(or RXV 1400) and there was a big difference which i thought wouldnt be possible.. reciever was the last thing on my mind to upgrade but like you, i have the bug [​IMG] Happy listening and make sure you compare both movies and music with each reciever because the HK's and Marantz would really shine in music.
    The Harman Kardon 635 isnt THX certified either but still better than my THX Select certified HTR 5790, so i guess there isnt any more than that to the certification.
     
  13. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    William, that's a big (really big) jump, from the Onkyo to separates. Many folks actually consider the upgrade-in-chunks option: they start with a receiver with preamp outputs (pre outs). These usually cost a bit more than basic no-frills receivers, but the advantage is that you can later add external amplifiers (which is often the weakest point in receivers) to start the upgrade process. One can go with a good receiver with pre-outs, later add a 3-channel amplifier for front left-center-right as an initial upgrade, then add another amplifier (2-, 3-, or more channels) to upgrade the amp stage for the rear (left and right, center if applicable, rear surrounds if applicable, etc.). That often yields a big big improvement in sound. If still more improvement is desired, one can then look at making the final leap to separates with a preamp/processor.

    Anyway, it's just something to consider.
     
  14. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    If you're just looking for something more musical, I think Marantz and H/K are great choices (I'm a Marantz guy[​IMG] SR-8300 and PM7000 ), but at the $1500 point there are some others that should be auditioned as well; at least Rotel and NAD, B&K and Arcam. Sorry, don't want to complicate things, but these things are at or just above this price range. At the $1K point, I'd probably go with the Marantz 7500. Too bad you're over there, I can get the 7500 (and probably the 8500) at a discount.

    I don't think the 601 is outdated, but it certainly isn't in the same league as the higher Marantz, H/K or others mentioned.


    You're welcome! That's awsome, glad to hear HTF continues to be beneficial [​IMG]

    A holding company owns Denon, Marantz and McIntosh. Each still operates individually. There is no product relationship between Denon and Marantz.

    I never stop looking/listening to audio gear either, so don't feel like it's a BAD thing [​IMG]
     
  15. William_Gravem

    William_Gravem Stunt Coordinator

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    Elinor, thank you for clarifying that. Separates have confused me for awhile now. When I recently started this hobby, I spent all of my time looking into speakers and subs. I got the Onkyo 601 for about $200.00 and never looked back b/c I knew it was a good deal. So I'm going into this next round of upgrade fairly clueless.

    $1,000-$1,500 isn't a hard cap... at all. If there's a good reason for it, I'd spend $3k or $4k on the next upgrade. I went to my favorite local A/V store on my way home from work, and learned that it's 2500-2800 or so for a Rotel pre/pro and amp (5 channels at 130 watts). It'd take a little longer to save for it, but may be the way to go. Certainly it's the way to go if I someday want to upgrade my speakers to paradigm signatures (something I've had in the back of my mind for a few years down the line) but if I don't get around to ever upgrading the speakers, is it a waste to go with separates with my Axioms? Somehow I feel like it may be the equivalent of calling Lou Ferrigno b/c I can't open a pickel jar. But I don't know, maybe they'll make the Axioms sound a lot better.

    Here are a few things that I initially thought to be the case, and now I think I was probably way off base. I'd like to run these very general notions by, just for verification one way or the other:

    -I thought of receivers, pre/pro, amps, etc. as being dictated by the quality of the speaker. For instance, if you're getting a really high quality speaker, you need the pre/pro and amp to drive it, not to mention this is necessary to make the speaker really shine. But if you don't have Paradigm studio quality speakers or better, there isn't much point to going with separates b/c the speaker won't be able to display the difference anyway.

    -I also once heard someone say that if you're mostly listening to music, pre/pro and amp was the way to go, but if you're primarily a movie person, then a good receiver was better. But I think this may be completely false.

    John, the place I stopped by said they had no problem with me bringing in my Axioms to hear with some of their different receivers. They carry Yamaha, Denon, Integra, Rotel separates, and a few others. So that's definately on my to-do list before I make any decision.
     
  16. Elinor

    Elinor Supporting Actor

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    The Rotel pre/pros and amps are a nice value -- very good performers for less than a premium price. Some find Rotel's sound a bit laid-back ... to me that is much preferable to the kinds of harsh colorations that some gear adds.

    I do believe you will hear a clear and substantial difference with your Axioms. A good pre/pro and amps will simply bring out the very very best those speakers are capable of. I too upgraded my pre/pro and amps before the speakers ... I was using some Polk floorstanders (LS70s) and going from my receiver to the new pre/pro and amps, it took just a few minutes to hear the improvement, and every passing minute added an "oh wow." Eventually I upgraded the Polks, to speakers that could do justice to the electronics they were hooked up to.

    Not trying to push you toward anything you might not be ready for. My strongest advice is always: analyze what you want from your system, what your priorities are, and then make a plan: how to get there. I spent nearly 4 years upgrading my whole system to where I wanted it to be. That's been 7 years ago, and though I don't have the latest bells and whistles in my gear, the sound is still so rich and satisfying, I have no desire to change anything. That's a nice place to be.

    Re the separates for music, receiver for HT ... I think that may be partly because in general, movie soundtracks don't exactly play on subtle nuances of sound. When I listen to, say, an Enya CD, I can hear the faint sound of her lips parting as she sings ... in a movie they'd slap a side of beef with a baseball bat to make the sound of lips parting. You know what I mean?
     
  17. William_Gravem

    William_Gravem Stunt Coordinator

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    good imagery.

    Since I just got setup recently, I'm comfortable taking my time and making substantial upgrades as I go.

    Thank you for your advice.
     
  18. Don*A

    Don*A Agent

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    Look in to NAD. I replaced Rotel rsp 1066 and 3 Halo A23 with the NAD T773 I wanted the rack space back. Let me tell you I was concerned about a big drop in quality. There was really not one, and in some areas I perfer the NAD. It does not have all the bells and whistles. NAD puts all the money into sound and that is what really matters. The power ratings from NAD are very very conservitive. I am drivivg 4 ohm Martin Logans and it is pushing them better then the Halo. Their power supplies are excellent and the pre amp section is simple and clean no garbage. Happy Shopping!
     
  19. Alan M

    Alan M Second Unit

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    As of 2 days ago,i upgraded from a Yammi 5560 to the Outlaw 950/7100 prepro/amp combo.I have ordered new speakers but they dont arrive until Monday.
    I did hook up my new outlaw combo with my current speakers and the difference is noticible.The price for the outlaw combo is $1499.IMHO,a bargain for seperates.
     

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